Avoid oversharing and succeed in interviews

Although job-seekers may overshare in interviews with negative statements about a previous employer, they risk falling victim to it.

“There is not only a strategic reason not to overshare but also a tactical reason,” reports Mickey Kampsen, president of Management Recruiters Inc. of Charlottesville, Va. “Oversharing can possibly offer up information that is ultimately going to be a negative and/or boring,” thereby diminishing their chances. Kampsen adds that a case of the nerves or overselling in an attempt to impress may undermine a positive outcome.


Sandy Charet, president of the executive search firm Charet & Associates Inc. in Cresskill, N.J., suggests that you examine information about you that could be negative and develop a technique she calls an “acceptable truth.” For example, a question about why you’re no longer working at your previous company could lead to this packaging: “It’s not the right environment for me at this point in my career.”

She adds, “If they probe you (could) say, ‘I like a more structured approach.’ ”

The company might have been disorganized or you conflicted with its culture. But with this answer, you’re not making negative statements about either.

Were you fired? Analyze the reason. Create a statement that’s honest about what you did, showing that in a different environment the same thing wouldn’t happen, Charet advises. You might say it was a pressured environment and you perform best with time to think. If you lacked a skill or experience, she recommends you consider adding, “the company needs an expert in X and unfortunately, that was just not me.”

Laura Rose, business coach at Rose Coaching LLC in Raleigh, N.C., recommends conceptualizing your role differently.

“Visualize yourself as the host of the interview instead of the person in the hot seat,” she says. “It should be more a conversation than an interrogation.”


These scripts will be helpful, but remind yourself that silence is acceptable, says Laurie Siebert, career services director at Walsh College in Troy, Mich.

“To avoid talking yourself out of a job,” she says, “internalize each question, answer it directly and succinctly, then stop!”

You may have to be deft to avoid questions that would disclose information about family, country of origin, native language, religious holidays or disability, says Larry Bodine, editor-in-chief of lawyers.com, a consumer site including legal topics published by LexisNexis.

“Analyze whether the person is a trained interviewer, someone not in (human resources),” Bodine says. “If not, it’s a red flag. Curiosity (often) overtakes the (interviewer).

“Quickly turn your response into something that focuses on your qualifications for the job,” he adds. “Try to give the person a chance to recover or rephrase the question.”

Recruiter Linda Ferrante, vice president of operations at RFT Staffing LLC in Farmington Hills, Mich., says attitude is essential so you don’t seem defensive or put the interviewer on the defensive.

Her method is to say, in a soft, gentle voice, that you’re “not sure why that’s relevant to the position” or ask for an explanation of its relevance to the job. She also cautions against thinking that a conversation with a recruiter is privileged as it is with clergy, attorneys or doctors.

If you’re at risk of oversharing during interviews, prepare scripts and develop a mindset of you leading a conversation. During interviews, consider your options for responding to irrelevant and personal questions. Monitor your content and tone.

Dr. Mildred L. Culp welcomes your questions at culp@workwise.net. © 2013 Passage Media.